Investigating the Barrier Activity of Novel, Human Enhancer-Blocking Chromatin Insulators for Hematopoietic Stem Cell Gene Therapy

Penelope Georgia Papayanni, Nikoletta Psatha, Panayota Christofi, Xing Guo Li, Pamela Melo, Monica Volpin, Eugenio Montini, Mingdong Liu, Georgios Kaltsounis, Minas Yiangou, David W. Emery, Achilles Anagnostopoulos, Thalia Papayannopoulou, Suming Huang, George Stamatoyannopoulos, Evangelia Yannaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Despite the unequivocal success of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell gene therapy, limitations still exist including genotoxicity and variegation/silencing of transgene expression. A class of DNA regulatory elements known as chromatin insulators (CIs) can mitigate both vector transcriptional silencing (barrier CIs) and vector-induced genotoxicity (enhancer-blocking CIs) and have been proposed as genetic modulators to minimize unwanted vector/genome interactions. Recently, a number of human, small-sized, and compact CIs bearing strong enhancer-blocking activity were identified. To ultimately uncover an ideal CI with a dual, enhancer-blocking and barrier activity, we interrogated these elements in vitro and in vivo. After initial screening of a series of these enhancer-blocking insulators for potential barrier activity, we identified three distinct categories with no, partial, or full protection against transgene silencing. Subsequently, the two CIs with full barrier activity (B4 and C1) were tested for their ability to protect against position effects in primary cells, after incorporation into lentiviral vectors (LVs) and transduction of human CD34+ cells. B4 and C1 did not adversely affect vector titers due to their small size, while they performed as strong barrier insulators in CD34+ cells, both in vitro and in vivo, shielding transgene's long-term expression, more robustly when placed in the forward orientation. Overall, the incorporation of these dual-functioning elements into therapeutic viral vectors will potentially provide a new generation of safer and more efficient LVs for all hematopoietic stem cell gene therapy applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1186-1199
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Gene Therapy
Issue number19-20
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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